Niacinamide and Tretinoin: How To Use Them Together

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Two of the most popular concerns when it comes to skincare are battling breakouts and maintaining elastic and bright glowing skin.

This is why products that treat acne and combat aging are some of the most popular beauty products on the market.

After all, who doesn’t want to have clear and youthful skin? 

Attractive Female Applying Serum On Face Moisturizing And Caring For Skin Standing Near Mirror In Modern Bathroom Indoors

A wide variety of products are available to help you achieve a clear and healthy complexion.

Meanwhile, two ingredients have been gaining popularity in the skincare market to help you achieve that.

Enter tretinoin and niacinamide. 

These two powerhouse ingredients are good tools to have in the battle against breakouts and wrinkles.

But what do they do exactly? And are they safe? 

We’ll take a look at these skincare staples and break down what they are, what they’re used for, their benefits, and how you can safely use them individually and together. 

Tretinoin: What Is It? 

In your search for skincare products, you may have already heard the retinoids.

They are a specific class of compounds that are derived from vitamin A. 

Retinoids are very popular to help treat skin and reduce the signs of aging. Dermatologists have also used them to treat skin conditions like melasma and psoriasis. 

There are many kinds of retinoids. The most common and well-known is the over-the-counter version called Retin-A or retinol.

Among the several types of retinoids is tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, which is often sold in various products that can only be bought with a prescription. 

The primary purpose of tretinoin is to speed up skin cell turnover.

This is why it’s an excellent skincare ingredient to help combat acne and signs of aging. 

Because it’s so powerful, tretinoin is often referred to as a do-it-all ingredient. Alongside treating breakouts and wrinkles, it can also do the following:

  • Clean and unclog the pores
  • Combat oily skin
  • Reduce acne scars
  • Promote collagen production
  • Address hyperpigmentation
  • Exfoliate the skin 

Its effectiveness has made skincare specialists refer to it as a gold standard in anti-aging and acne control.

This retinoic acid is one of the strongest ingredients in the skincare market.

However, its strength makes it one of the most irritating ingredients too. 

This is why it’s only available to use with a prescription. It’s also usually not recommended for those with dry or sensitive skin.

Unregulated use can result in irritation, flaking, and even peeling.

How To Use Tretinoin 

Portrait Of Woman Applying Face Cream On Cheeks Smiling To Camera

Tretinoin is often used in a cream form that is applied after washing the face.

Because it’s very strong, most doctors recommend using it every other day instead of daily. 

It also degrades quickly in the sunlight, which is why it’s often recommended that tretinoin products be used at night or with an effective sunscreen.

Just follow these simple application steps: 

  1. Wash your face with warm water using a mild cleanser or soap.
  2. Carefully apply the tretinoin product to your face. A pea-sized amount will do.
  3. Gently rub it into the skin.
  4. Wash the excess medicine off of your hands.
  5. Allow the product to absorb into the skin for roughly 20 minutes and then apply a gentle moisturizer.

Be sure to look out for any irritation or reaction. Discontinue use and tell your doctor if there are any flare-ups or adverse reactions.

The Benefits of Tretinoin 

Tretinoin is a powerful skincare compound, and when used correctly, it offers these benefits: 

Treatment and prevention of acne

Tretinoin is approved by the FDA as an acne treatment.

It treats and prevents breakouts by unclogging pores and speeding up skin cell turnover to prevent the formation of pimples.

Reduces hyperpigmentation

Alongside preventing breakouts, tretinoin can also help reduce the appearance of scars caused by acne and uneven dark spots through the promotion of collagen production.

Improves skin texture and tone

Because tretinoin speeds up cell turnover, dead skin cells are removed revealing the softer, smoother, and more even-toned skin underneath.


Tretinoin is also an FDA-approved anti-aging treatment.

Because of its ability to promote collagen production and boost skin cell turnover, it helps smoothen out wrinkles and reduces the appearance of fine lines, making skin more plump and youthful.

Make pores appear smaller

Tretinoin also helps minimize pores for a smoother overall complexion as it cleans the pores.

There are many benefits to this wonder product, however, it is still a very powerful skincare agent that may also cause adverse reactions.

That’s why it can only be used under a doctor’s supervision.

Products Okay to Use With Tretinoin

It’s important not to combine tretinoin with other strong anti-acne products like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid.

Products that are gentle and moisturizing make the best pair for tretinoin.

Because tretinoin can potentially dry out your skin, a good moisturizer along with sunscreen works best when using tretinoin.

Niacinamide: What Is It? 

A woman is holding serum drops on her hand.

Niacinamide is another do-all ingredient that has been gaining popularity alongside acids like salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid.

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3.

It’s water-soluble and works with the natural substances on your face to minimize pores, improve skin tone, and improve your complexion. 

It’s an effective acne treatment and can help address dark, uneven skin tone and clogged pores. It also helps regulate the production of oil so your face stays clean and clear.

Because it’s gentle and safe to use, many add niacinamide to their regular daily facial care routine.

How To Use Niacinamide 

Niacinamide is safe to use daily, even twice a day, depending on the concentration. It’s pretty easy to apply.

Here are steps to guide you:

  1. Wash your face with your regular soap or cleanser.
  2. Apply the product over your entire face. You can also concentrate on problem areas.
  3. Allow 20 to 30 minutes to absorb the product.
  4. Continue with oil-based products.
  5. Finish with a moisturizer. 

When using a niacinamide serum, it’s always best to apply these before any oil-based serums and creams to ensure better product absorption. 

Additionally, try to avoid using products with niacinamide and vitamin C as this can minimize its effects.

The Benefits of Niacinamide 

Niacinamide offers many benefits, and because it’s gentler on the skin, it can be used by everyone regardless of skin type. 

Here are the benefits that niacinamide offers:


It’s a wonderful anti-inflammatory that can soothe and reduce skin redness caused by irritation or acne.

Strengthens the skin’s lipid barrier

Niacinamide naturally strengthens and supports the skin’s natural barrier, ensuring it stays healthy and promoting better water retention.


Niacinamide is also a strong antioxidant that helps protect the skin from environmental damage caused by UV rays and pollution.

Regulates oil production

Niacinamide helps regulate sebum production in the sebaceous glands to prevent acne and oily skin.

Acne treatment

As an anti-inflammatory and regulator of oil production, niacinamide works great to combat breakouts.

Smoothens the skin

Niacinamide works very well at fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation. And because it stimulates collagen production, it also helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles.

Hydrates the skin

Niacinamide keeps the skin nourished by strengthening the skin’s natural barrier and preventing hydration and water loss.

Niacinamide and Retin-A

Can you use niacinamide with Retin-A though?

Because of its gentle formulation, niacinamide products can usually be paired with almost any other facial care ingredient.

It’s a good partner to retinol because it can moisturize the skin after the intense effects of retinol.

Niacinamide and retinol can be used together to help lessen the impact of the latter.

Can I Use Tretinoin and Niacinamide Together?

Many people use retinol and niacinamide together, but can you do the same for tretinoin and niacinamide? The answer is yes!

They can definitely be used together. 

When you combine these powerful ingredients, you can enjoy the strengthened benefits of each. 

Each ingredient will also focus on a specific problem area: 

  • Tretinoin will help combat acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging.
  • Niacinamide will help soothe irritated and inflamed skin, reduce redness, smoothen skin, and keep it hydrated. 

Together they can help keep your skin smooth, clear, and youthful.

In fact, some products already contain a combination of tretinoin and niacinamide in their formulation. 

However, if you are using them in separate products, you can use them one at a time. 

Use niacinamide in the morning to protect and nourish your skin throughout the day. And then follow that up by using tretinoin in the evening to help revitalize your skin as you sleep. 

Using them separately gives the products the most ideal time to work.

If you will be using them simultaneously, it’s important to layer them properly to ensure each product is utilized optimally.

How do you layer tretinoin and niacinamide? Read on!

How To Properly Layer Tretinoin and Niacinamide 

It’s important to be careful when using tretinoin and niacinamide simultaneously to prevent skin irritation or reactions. 

Tretinoin, in particular, is exceptionally strong, so it’s crucial to know when and how to combine this with other ingredients in your skincare routine.

As with other skincare ingredients, the rule of thumb to follow is thinnest to thickest. Apply the thinnest product first and the thickest one last. 

For other ingredients, this could get confusing because it depends on which ingredients are in which products. This time, though, it’s a bit simpler. 

Tretinoin usually only comes in gel or cream form. Niacinamide can come in many forms including lotion, cleanser, toner, and serum. 

So depending on your products’ consistency, that’s how you determine which should be applied first. 

If you are using a tretinoin cream and a niacinamide serum, the application process would be like this: 

  1. Wash your face with your regular cleanser, and pat dry.
  2. Apply the niacinamide serum all over your face. Wait for it to absorb.
  3. Apply the tretinoin cream all over your face and let it absorb.
  4. Finish off with a moisturizer. 

On the other hand, if your niacinamide is in your lotion or moisturizer, the thinnest to thickest rule still applies.

You would apply the tretinoin cream first and apply niacinamide moisturizer at the end.

Using tretinoin and niacinamide properly together can go a long way in positively transforming your complexion and leaving your skin soft and supple.

Remember, though, that tretinoin should only be used with a prescription from your doctor. 

a young girl with healthy skin and body wrapped in towel with hair in a ponytail smiling

Questions About Niacinamide and Tretinoin

How do you layer tretinoin and niacinamide?

Usually, it’s recommended that you apply niacinamide in the morning and tretinoin at night. But they can also be used together. When you use them together, follow the thinnest to thickest rule.

Can I use niacinamide with tretinoin?

Some beauty favorites already contain a combination of niacinamide with tretinoin in one product. Using these ingredients together is fine, but you will still need a prescription to purchase tretinoin.

Are there any side effects of using tretinoin?

Retinol use is generally safe in the right concentration. Tretinoin in particular is given under a doctor’s supervision, so side effects are usually not expected. However, because it is so potent it may cause dryness, irritation, and peeling.

Are there any side effects of using niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a gentle ingredient and is usually okay for all skin types. Using products containing niacinamide rarely has side effects. In rare cases, it may cause itching or redness.

Is there anything you should avoid when using tretinoin?

Because tretinoin is already potent on its own, you shouldn’t use tretinoin with any other anti-acne products like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid are okay to use with tretinoin.

Powerhouse Skincare Duo: Tretinoin + Niacinamide

When looking for anti-aging ingredients that are effective at combating acne and inflammation, tretinoin and niacinamide make the best pair.

As both ingredients address different skin issues, using tretinoin and niacinamide results in clear, plump, healthy, and youthful skin when used together.

What’s your go-to anti-aging skin product? Let us know down below.

Want to read more about anti-aging beauty products?

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  • Michelle Alejandro

    Michelle has had a lifelong love affair with makeup. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communications /Journalism, she began an illustrious career as a writer. Michelle penned a beauty and lifestyle national newspaper column for over a decade and became the Beauty Editor for Chalk Magazine and Editor-in-Chief for Metro Weddings for over nine years, working with some of the biggest makeup artists and trusted beauty brands in the business. During this time, she also completed a course in Creative Artistic Makeup Design and worked as a freelance makeup artist, beauty editor, and writer.

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